Japanese textiles, and denim in particular, have been a long-standing obsession of mine—long-standing, but somewhat uneducated. With the goal of schooling myself on these beautiful and ancient materials, I recently joined Emil Corsillo and Mitch Frank of Hickoree’s on a buying trip. The destination was Sri, a private gallery owned by collector and dealer Stephen Szczepanek. Inside, we discovered overwhelming piles of indigo dating back to the 19th century.
Spring light filtered through the windows of the Greenpoint studio, illuminating shades that range from rich cerulean to weathered liberty blue. Szczepanek walked us around the space, showing off highlights from a collection built from over a decade of buying and dealing. Largely comprised of furoshiki and boro panels, Szczepanek’s collection also extends to aprons, robes and shirts that hold decades of history in their wear, tear and patchwork. By examining this usage, he’s able to estimate a date and place of origin and—in many cases—build a story about the original owner’s occupation and lifestyle.
The history of blue-and-white cotton textiles in Japan dates back to the 18th century. Initially used by city-dwellers, the indigo tradition gradually became a staple of the country farmer. Patchwork mending and creative stitching show decades of abuse that have turned these artifacts into art. The hand-dyed and hand-loomed fabrics may be old, but they are in good shape for a reason—featuring a durability that makes them ideal to collect and wear.
After the initial tour of his latest finds, Szczepanek left the Hickoree’s team to pour over the collection, deciding which one-of-a-kind items to include in their shop. Driven by textile obsession and influenced by consumer preference, Corsillo and Frank are able to strike a balance between nerd enthusiasm and commercial sensibilities. And from their recent sourcing trip, Hickoree’s has released a new collection of goods from Sri that are now available at the online shop.
Browse the full collection of Hickoree’s antique indigo goods in our slideshow.
Sri photography by Josh Rubin; Product images courtesy of Hickoree’s